In the Sept. 7 Datassential webinar titled “Simply Smarter Webinar: 2024 Foodservice Forecast,” Jack Li, builder, and Ann Golladay, senior director, publications, presented an overview of the foodservice category and predictions for the next year. The research in this webinar was done in partnership with the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association.

Current status

  • Food rate of inflation did not get as high for away-from-home food as it did for at-home food.
  • During the pandemic, more restaurants were closing than opening, but Dataessential data shows that those numbers are leveling off, indicating a more balanced number of openings and closures.
  • Consumers have cut spending on restaurants/dining out by 48%.
  • Industry tailwinds: continued pent up demand from COVID, consumers craving experiences, tech/AI, off-premise upgrades here to stay.


  • Industry challenges: labor challenges, supply chain, remote-first work policies, repaying student debt.
  • Labor shortage is currently limiting growth for foodservice, but the industry is adding more jobs.
  • Labor force participation overall is lower than pre-COVID levels. This has limited foodservice growth. 

Moving forward

  • Operators are generally optimistic for next month’s sales, yet some of that optimism may be due to higher price points.
  • Inflation assumptions: 7% for the 2023 average, 5% by 2024.
  • Predicts the most spending in QSR and casual dining, followed by fast-casual dining.
  • Driving foodservice visits — tasty/craveable, more enjoyable, more convenient.
  • Driving at-home food — affordable, healthful.
  • On the subject of a recession, Golladay said foodservice has already experienced a bit of a recession. Even in the case of a recession, though, she predicts that it will not impact foodservice as hard as it has in the past.
  • Golladay predicts that away-from-home food prices might not come down as quickly as they did for at-home food prices.
  • Though consumers are spending more in the foodservice segment, those increases are somewhat due to inflationary prices right now, and Datassential predicts that trend to continue.
  • Predicts a relative stabilization in prices, streamlined menus, agility investments and decisions driven by demographic shifts. They also predict labor will continue to be an issue, and technology and AI will be tied to that.